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Volunteers @ the Library
Managing Library Volunteers (ALA, 2011) 2nd ed. by Preston Driggers and Eileen Dumas
Volunteerism in American libraries has been around for a very long time.Your library's ability to meet its mission might just depend on whether or not you can attract and keep volunteers. We know that volunteers are unpaid staff; they give their time and talents to help the library carry out specific programs and/or services. Libraries can benefit enormously from the work of volunteers.
Volunteers can come from any age group. One demographic that clearly stands out as a potential talent pool is the baby boomer generation. The retirement years are close at hand for a vast numbers of baby boomers. This group alone represents an influx of talented, well-educated and skilled individuals who want to find meaningful engagement within their communities.
So how can or should your library take advantage of this wonderful resource?
- Provide volunteer opportunities that truly take advantage of their diverse work experience and highly skilled abilities
- Listen to how people want to commit their time and resources toward volunteering, offering both short-termed and project based opportunities
- Let them see the impact of their work
How can volunteers benefit your library?
Volunteers serve as an important link between the library and the community. They help the community to understand how the library works, as well as its importance as a community cultural, educational and recreational resource.
- Involving volunteers develops a group of strong library supporters
- Volunteers can enhance library services
- Volunteers can bring their community connections to the library
- Volunteers bring specialized skills/life experiences
- Volunteers bring new energy and ideas
- Volunteers can free up staff time
What are the benefits to the volunteer?
- An opportunity to contribute to and serve the community
- A new use of free time
- A chance to meet new people
- A sense of purpose, accomplishment and self-worth
- Pride in a job well done
- Volunteer service recognition
Myths about Volunteer Program
- Volunteers can replace staff false! Volunteers generally dont have any library experience.What they do have is the skill to support the work of the library staff.
- Volunteer programs are free - false! At the very least it takes staff time to supervise each volunteer and the resources to train them in order for the library to get a positive result for the effort. Some funds should be invested in volunteer recognition as well.
- Volunteers manage themselves - false! No matter how smart the volunteer they wont know what to do unless they are given direction. You need to train them and monitor their performance.
Ask Yourself Why You Want to Start a Volunteer Program
Start with a mission statement because it will help simplify why you want to engage volunteers in your library. Your mission statement should provide an overview illustrating why you are doing this, what volunteers will do, and how their efforts will be supported. Once you have answered these questions - the why, what and how in your mission statement, it can then be used to plan, develop and implement your program.
Most of the files below require either Microsoft Word 2007 or the Word Viewer.
Sample Volunteer Program Mission Statements [All Word 2007]
- Sample Volunteer Program Mission Statement 1
- Sample Volunteer Program Mission Statement 2
- Sample Volunteer Program Mission Statement 3
- Sample Volunteer Program Mission Statement 4
- Sample Volunteer Program Mission Statement 5
How to run a successful volunteer program
Libraries should not start a volunteer program unless the governing body (board of trustees, city council, selectman, etc) and the library director are committed to the idea and are willing to allocate the needed time to develop a program that is well managed and will benefit the library.
There are six (6) elements which must be part of any volunteer program for it to be successfully. They are:
- Meaningful written job descriptions
- Clear expectations in recruitment and screening
- Orientation and training
- Supportive atmosphere
- Supervision and evaluation
Volunteer Job Descriptions
The job description is the most critical piece of a volunteer program. Knowing what you want volunteers to do will help you to communicate your expectations to them. Job descriptions help you and your staff thinks about where the job fits into the needs of the library, how the position will be supervised, and what kind of training will be needed. Job descriptions help you match the right person to the job assignment so that it a good fit for the volunteer.
- Clarify roles
- Principle recruitment and placement tool
- Basis for supervision
- Serves as a contract
- Avoids problems
Job Description Database
A list of volunteer jobs with descriptions
Use the volunteer job description database to create volunteer job positions or write your own using the template linked below.
Recruitment, Training and Supervision
- Sample Press Release
- Sample Volunteer Agreement
- Volunteer Sample Agreement 1 [Word 2007]
- Volunteer Sample Agreement 2 [Word 2007]
- Volunteer Sample Agreement 3 [Word 2007]
- Sample Orientation Checklist [Word 2007]
- Sample Applications [Word 2007]
- Sample Interview Questions
- Volunteer Interest Survey [Word 2007]
- Sample Evaluations, Progress Report, Exit Interviews, Dismissals, Timesheet
- Volunteer Program Evaluation Form 1
- Volunteer Program Evaluation Form 2
- Volunteer Program Evaluation Form 3
- Volunteer Exit Interview/Survey
- Volunteers Progress Review
- Evaluation of the Program by the Volunteer
- How to Deal with Unreliable Volunteers
- Dismissing a Volunteer [PDF, This file requires the free Adobe Reader]
- Sample Timesheet
- Sample Volunteer Policies [Word 2007]
- Sample Volunteer Code of Ethics
- Volunteer Code of Ethics [Word 2007]
- Volunteer Rights and Responsibilities [Word 2007]
- Volunteer Recognition Resources
- Recognition 1
- Recognition 2
- National Volunteer Week materials
Sponsored by the Points of Light Foundation, National Volunteer Week materials are featured on this website. This site includes press releases, ideas for celebration, resources for purchasing recognition items, and lots of other helpful information about volunteerism.
This site features resources and links on volunteer recognition including quotes, humorous anecdotes and celebration ideas.
- Way to Go! Recognizing Volunteers [PDF]; This file requires the free Adobe Reader.
- Volunteer Recognition Retail Items: These sites are retail sites featuring recognition items that are reasonably priced.
- The Thanks Company
- The Volunteer Gifts Company
- Positive Promotions
- Promos On-Time (keyword “volunteers”)
- Teen Volunteer Sample Application and Agreement
- Teen Volunteerism Benefits
- Teen Volunteering Possibilities
- Why Encourage Teen Volunteerism in the Library
Library Lingo 101
- Library Lingo 101 [Word 2007]
All PDF files below require the free Adobe Reader.
- Volunteer Involvement in California: “Best Practices” (1999), [pdf]
- Energize! Energize, Inc. is an international training, consulting and publishing firm specializing in volunteerism. The site is filled with useful information.
- Free Management Library (Volunteers)
- Points of Light Foundation: Starting a Volunteer Program [pdf]
- Leadership Volunteers: Are They Worth the Investment? [pdf]
- AL!VE Association of Leaders in Volunteer Engagement
- Corporation of National and Community Service
- Council for Certification in Volunteer Administration
Sample Volunteer Manuals
All files below are PDFs and require the free Adobe Reader.
- Auburn Public Library (Maine)
- Salt Spring Island Public Library (British Columbia)
- Mansfield/Richland County Public Library
- Shasta County Library (California)
- Bibliography for further reading and additional resources [Word 2007]